Feast of Saint John the Evangelist
1 John 1:1-4
John 20:1a, 2-8
When I was pastor, I soon recognized a pattern; in fact, there was almost a rhythm – every Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Spring Break, it seemed I was talking with fearful and frustrated parents… for one of their children in college would be home for the break, or on vacation, and dramatically announce to parents that s/he no longer believed in God. They decided they were atheists. The fear and frustration – almost desperation – in the parents’ voice was palpable.
I remember one appointment in particular. A mom spoke of her daughter, lamenting, "It’s not so much that she rejects Catholic doctrine or ritual; in fact, it’s not even a theological issue, it’s a philosophical one. My concern is that she has set herself up as the authority, limiting all of reality to merely what she can perceive, or comprehend."
My first response was usually an attempt to console them in their anxiety. But part of the conversation would also include a question: "Why do you feel that university, even a Catholic college, should insulate or protect your child from these deeper questions?"
The Octave of Christmas thrusts us into these deeper questions, offering several liturgical challenges… the celebration of several martyrs in the shadow of the manger in Bethlehem, and in today’s Gospel, we ponder a resurrection narrative! This life and death theme saturates today’s feast of John the Evangelist. It is a call to authenticity, the real. Proof is in the pudding.
Jesuit Fr. William O’Malley says (Help My Unbelief, Obis Books, 2008), "Scientists work from consequences to probable causes. So should seekers for human meaning. They corroborate their inferences with experience. So should those who seek God. Modern biology has improved health care and life expectancy. One would hope belief in God would produce a recognizable enrichment of human life. Jesus himself said, "By their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:16).
What we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)
Perhaps our task today is not so much to proselytize (trying to persuade others to believe) but to evangelize (gently and tenderly narrating why we believe). And I know how powerful is the witness of so many good and loving parents, proclaiming the Jesus Christ they have seen and heard and experienced.
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness. He is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.